In a post entitled, “wRC+ = Follow the Money Trail,” Mike Silva of NYBD figures out the dastardly plans of the online saber community: make that money. Take it away, Mike:
We need more advanced statistics just like we needed Cool Ranch Doritos, New Coke, or a colorful cover for the iPod. What I mean is the “powers that be” in the statistical community have created a profitable industry for themselves that results in sites like Fangraphs. Just like newspapers churn out content daily, statistical analysis becomes stale if it isn’t procured with another variation of the same thing. Why have boring old Runs Created, or OPS+, when you can fancy it up with wRC+.
Tango (seen here) responded to Silva in the comments section by saying:
As I keep saying on my blog time and time again, summary opinion without evidence is the very definition of bullsh!t. And Mike’s statement here is pure bullsh!t.
And the funny thing is how right Tango is. You see, the neat lesson Silva has taught us today is the beauty of meritocracy in the online saber community. It would be near impossible for Tango or Appleman to bring out the same old stat spiced up with a different name and get away with it. Why? Because there are smart people here on the internet who would never put up with being treated like idiots. These aren’t mindless hoards of consumers begging for Michael Bay to blow things up for the billionth time. These are intelligent fans, some of them specialists in mathematical and analytical fields, who demand good evidence be given at all times. If Dave Appleman were to go on Fangraphs and say, “Hey guys, we have a new stat: wUZROBA+, and it’s made by doing this nonsense, etc…” people would stop reading Fangraphs! Instead, he says this:
As you may have noticed, there’s now an extra column in the “Advanced” section for batting stats called “wRC+”. You can think of this stat as a wOBA based version of OPS+. It’s park and league adjusted and it’s on a very similar scale as OPS+. The difference is that it uses wRC, which is based on wOBA.
There’s the evidence. Now whether or not this is a good stat or not can be discussed. How? By actually analyzing the statistic based on its inherent merits, which Silva never does! Mike responds by saying:
You don’t need to go to an Ivy League school, create a metric, or understand science to have intelligence (looking at you Andy), perhaps if some of the people skills that, from my experience, many in the sports industry lack, were present you would be able to sell your concepts to the generally public rather than arrogantly responding (looking at you MGL) your critics.
And I agree, you don’t need to have a PhD (or any degree) to be a knowledgeable baseball analyst. But you do need to demonstrate tangible proof for the claims that you make, and this is where Mike fails greatly. In fact, he admits it:
Front offices all across the country are riddled with politics, am I naïve enough to believe the advanced metric community is no different? Do I have proof? Of course not, I can’t read your mind… You will learn that many things in this world at not x +y = z…All I know is new stats continue to be churned out and sometimes I really don’t see where they are nothing more than the proverbial rocking chair.
Here’s how you can uncover Tango, MGL, Appleman, and the rest, Mr. Silva: demonstrate with evidence that their stats are nonsense, and you win. Seriously. Just prove that wRC+ is utter and complete dribble and you can advance your position a lot. But Silva, admittedly, doesn’t have evidence. He has a hunch. A gut feeling. He sees analogies to other entities (that aren’t analogous) and creates links. And this, at its heart, is what is separating the saber community from the rest of the pack.